Second Generation Artist: Covered the Conflict in Vietnam with America
Vũ Giáng Hương on 23 January 1930 in Vu Gia Trang, Thái Hà, a village in Đống Đa near Hanoi, after her parents moved from their original home in Đông Cao District, Gia Lương, Bắc Ninh Province.1 She was the first child of a large family that became famous in many fields. In her childhood, she inherited a family education from her father, writer Vũ Ngọc Phan, and mother, poet Hàng Phượng. Two of her brothers also benefitted from an academic upbringing. Vũ Tuyên Hoàng became President of the Vietnam Union of Science and Technology Association. Vũ Triệu Mân became a professor and expert in plant protection.2
“When I was older, I often helped my mother write manuscripts for my father because the house did not have a typewriter and my father did not have the time for typing. Maybe that’s why my words got better. One day, my father got a cold but a translation needed to be urgently finished. My father called me to the bed, he lay holding the book and translated for me to copy. That was the book Anna Karenine by Lev Tolstoi.”
Vũ Giáng Hương3
Hương revealed a gift for painting at the early age of seven years old. This young talent allowed her to study art under the influential teachers Tô Ngọc Vân and Trần Văn Cẩn in the Thanh Hóa Province resistance school, after the École des Beaux-Arts de l’Indochine was evacuated to the Việt Bắc during the First Indochina War. While there, she also drew inspiration and knowledge from other painters such as Nguyễn Sỹ Ngọc and Nguyễn Tiến Chung. From 1955 to 1962, Huong studied painting at the Hanoi Fine Arts College in the silk painting department.
After graduating from the Vietnam Fine Arts College, Hương taught and held the position of vice principal at the Vietnam Fine Arts College until 1988. She was credited with exemplary leadership, famously supplying students with fuel for fires so that they would not have to use their beds and furniture to keep warm in the particularly bitter winter of 1979.
Like many artists and teachers, Hương made regular excursions in and around Hanoi during the First and Second Indochina Wars reflected in the works she created, which revealed her confident use of different materials. In 1956, she visited a fishing cooperative and later painted the scene on silk. In 1957, she visited and sketched Thầy Temple (Chùa Thầy), a Buddhist temple located in Quốc Oai District, formerly of Hà Tây Province that is now part of Hanoi. In 1965, she sketched guerrillas loading a night ferry in an undisclosed location. In 1970, she visited the infamous Hàm Rồng Bridge in Thanh Hóa Province. In these examples, Hương developed her techniques for sketching in the field and then making Đông Hồ folk woodcuts after her return.
“I liked painting as a child, although I loved literature very much, there were many books in the east and west, and I enjoyed reading. For the first time, I learned how to draw by instructor Nguyễn Sỹ Ngọc then studied drawing classes in Quán Tin, Thanh Hóa. In 1952, I went to Việt Bắc to study short-term course at the resistance art school. Mr Nguyễn Tư Nghiêm taught the Tô Ngọc Vân course in 1955… in 1957, passed the entrance exam for the first course of Vietnam Fine Arts College, learned by teachers Trần Văn Cẩn, Nguyễn Văn Tý, Nguyễn Tiến Chung, and Tạ Thúc Bình…”
Vũ Giáng Hương4
In 1971, Hương journeyed down the Ho Chi Minh Trail on behalf of the Vietnam Fine Arts College. She was assigned to Group 559 and charged with documenting the Group’s continued construction, repair and development of the Ho Chi Minh Trail.
After retiring from the college, Hương was Deputy Secretary General and Secretary General of Vietnam Fine Arts Association for ten consecutive years, from 1989 to 1999.
After that, from 1999 to 2004, Hương held the position of Vice Chairman of the National Committee of Vietnam Union of Literature and Arts. From April 2004 to September 2010, she was made Chairman of the National Committee of Vietnam Union of Literary and Art Association.
Vũ Giáng Hương passed away suddenly in the early morning on 20 August 2011 due to a stroke at Bach Mai Hospital in Hanoi. Her funeral, on 25 August, was held at the Ministry of National Funeral Houses with the etiquette and solemnity afforded to senior state officials.
VŨ GIÁNG HƯƠNG GALLERY
Vũ Giáng Huong Painting Collection, 2006
Sketching Vũ Giáng Huong, 2007, Art Publishing House
Love and Art, August 2011, World Publishing House
Vietnam Fine Arts Museum
1960 – National Fine Arts Exhibition, Hanoi
1965 – National Fine Arts Exhibition, Hanoi
1965 – Hanoi Capital Fine Arts Exhibition, Hanoi
1974 – Female Painter Exhibition, Hanoi
2-15 November 2012 – Posthumous exhibition, The memory of the one-year anniversary of her death, Triển Lãm Mỹ Thuật (Fine Art Exhibition), Hanoi.
Chairman of the National Committee of Vietnam Association of Literature and Arts
1962-1988 – Vice-principal of the Hanoi Fine Arts University
1989-1999 – Deputy Secretary General and Secretary General of Vietnam Fine Arts Association
1999-2004 –Vice Chairman of the National Committee of Vietnam Union of Literature and Arts
April 2004-September 2010 – Chairman of the National Committee of Vietnam Union of Literary and Art Association
Associate Professor at the Hanoi Fine Arts University
1960 – Award for the National Fine Arts Exhibition
1965 – Award for the National Fine Arts Exhibition
1965 – Official award for the Hanoi Capital Fine Arts Exhibition
1974 – Award for the Female Painter Exhibition
2001 – State Prize for Art and Literature
2011 – Hero of the People’s Armed Forces
Teacher of Excellence Award
Second-class Independence Medal
Second-class Anti-American Resistance Medal
First-class Labor Medal
REFERENCES AND FOOTNOTES:
- Trần Hoàng Thiên Kim, “Painter Vũ Giáng Hương: Drawing to Revive Memories,” 23 August 2011, Dân Trí. Visited on 16 July 2019.
- Phan Cẩm Thượng, “Remembering painter Vũ Giáng Hương: Happiness is a painter,” 23 August 2011, Dân Trí. Visited on 28 June 2019.
- Trần Trung Sáng, “Painter Vũ Giáng Hương and the imprint of her motherland,” 24 August 24 2011, Công an Thành Phố Đà Nẵng. Visited on 28 June 2019.
- “The Female Artist Vũ Giáng Hương,” Mỹ Thuật MS. Visited on 28 June 2019.